Investigation of upper mantle discontinuity structure beneath the central Pacific using SS precursors

Nicholas Schmerr, Edward Garnero

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74 Scopus citations


Using a high-quality broadband seismic data set of precursors to the phase SS, we investigate the structure of upper mantle discontinuities beneath the central Pacific, including the Hawaiian hot spot. We image structure by stacking over 4000 records into geographic bins, retaining periods down to 5 s. We consider the effects of correcting for four separate tomographic models of mantle heterogeneity, excluding data at distances containing phases that potentially interfere with precursors. We find evidence for peak-to-peak topography of 15-20 km on the 670-km discontinuity and 7-28 km of topography on the 400-km discontinuity. Weak reflections are detected from discontinuities near 220-and 520-km depth. The average transition zone thickness beneath our region is approximately 242 ± 3 km, very similar to previous estimates of the global average. Lateral transition zone thinning and thickening weakly correlate with reduced and increased transition zone shear velocity, respectively, consistent with a thermal origin to topographical variations on the discontinuities within our study region. The transition zone beneath Hawaii and to the east of the Line Island Chain is thinned by up to 20 km in a province spanning nearly 1000 km, suggesting an excess mantle temperature of ∼200 K. In the oldest crustal regions of our study area (>100 Ma), the 400-km discontinuity is relatively shallow, and the transition zone is relatively thick (250-255 km); a possible explanation for this pattern includes small-scale convection in the upper mantle bringing colder material into the transition zone.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberB08305
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 4 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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